Why hike in Germany? Well, after travelling around the world twice it has been a while since I have done any extensive hiking in Germany and I have simply gotten homesick a bit. I have enjoyed or "suffered" through camping in swamps, deserts, limb-dropping eucalyptus trees and tropical jungle - now I just want to be in simple German pine forests. No 40 Celsius temperatures, no 90% humidity and please, no tropical thunderstorms. Just normal German spring weather.
It also fits well into my schedule. I need some time to prepare my upcoming trips. The time window for the Yukon thrupaddle is very narrow, too - we do not have much choice other than to start around June 1st. And that left me with about 1 1/2 months time before flying to Alaska. Not enough time for a long exotic trip, but definitely enough for a little hike through my home country. And then other things fell into place as well: I wanted to visit my Swiss paddling partner for a long planning weekend. He lives close to the German border which then became a natural starting point for my hike: Waldshut-Tiengen. The finishing point was easy as well: I want to visit an Austrian hiking friend of mine (whom I had seen last at the very beginning of all my travels back in May 2008) and so I wanted to end up as close as possible to her in Germany which meant Passau as the finishing point.
Having decided on the two termini of my hike I now just had to find trails between them. Actually this turned out to be easier than expected. The first point of consideration was that I would be hiking in spring and therefore all high alpine routes could be excluded. Instead I would go for the low mountain ranges in Southern Germany. One website proofed to be incredibly helpful for planning this trip: http://www.wanderbares-deutschland.de/ This website not only describes almost all longer hiking trails in Germany, but also shows them on an interactive map. For most trails there even is an English description. I just had to link existing trails together. When I planned the whole route in Mapsource for my Garmin GPS another website came in very handy: http://www.wanderkompass.de/ On this website you can upload gpx tracks for almost all long trails in Germany - for free! This was kind of a new approach for me: Before I had just embarked on one long-distance trail about 1,000 km or longer. As most long distance trails worldwide are maintained by some sort of voluntary organisation trip planning has generally been very easy. Just get in touch with the relevant organisation - mostly just through their website - order maps and guidebooks there, ask them all the questions you have and off you go. This time was different as I had to piece together my own route and consequently planning took much longer. Still it was a fun process and now that I have the practice I will do the same thing for my UK thruhike...
But back to Germany - this is the route I am planning to do and it can be downloaded here in wikiloc:
I will start out in Waldshut-Tiengen on the Mittelweg up through the Black Forest to St. Georgen (100 km) and then go eastward on the Querweg Lahn-Rottweil to Rottweil and then freestyle up the the Swabian Alb (40 km). There I connect with the Schwaebische Alb Nordrandweg and follow that almost all the way northeast to Harburg (323 km). This is where the Frankenweg starts and I will hike that about 150 km up to Holnstein where I change onto the Jurasteig. The Jurasteig is followed eastwards for about 70 km. Then I connect to an old pilgrimage trail for 50 km before eventually joining the Goldsteig, which will lead me 253 km through the Bavarian Forest all the way to Passau. Garmin mapsource tells me that this route is exactly 972 km long! This will take me about 1 month and depending on how much time I have left (that means how many people / castles / museums I will visit on the way) I will even continue into Austria. There is a new long-distance trail along the river Danube from Passau to Grein called Donausteig that would be another 140 km. And in a last push I could continue on to Krems a.d. Donau where my friend lives on the Waldviertel Weitwanderweg (130 km). I definitely want to get to Passau, anything further than that is an extra bonus. But after reading about (and remembering!) the famous Austrian sweets like "Marillenknoedel" or "Kaiserschmarrn" (I won't translate that - have a look at the linked website or even better: you just eat it) I have a great incentive to continue hiking.
Two more weeks of fattening myself up in Germany - and then my tent will be my home again.